Taking It Easy

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Frenchman Street
Swamp tour

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

...in the Big Easy. New Orleans, not to be confused with old/original Orleans in France, home of Alhou (our buddy made in San Diego ;)

This vibrant, jazzy city lived up to its name and reputation during our 3 nights there. Our poor livers simply couldn't survive a fourth. And of course, each night it was a case of "Go large, or go home!". So in reality, it was only during the day that we took it EASY. We slept all day,and partied all night!

That's because in Nawlins (as the locals call it) closing time is up to the bartender's discretion. Often that's at daybreak! They won't close when people are still up for a party. Plus you can drink on the streets, take your booze with you from bar to bar, or buy over-sized plastic glasses from street vendors, or even from the daytime French market! They have your tipple of choice ranging from beers to mojitos to frozen daiquiris but ironically, the most popular cocktail is the Hurricane. 

You may recall that New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Apparently 80% of the city was flooded, in some parts by more than 4 metres. Survivors were stranded on rooftops, some waiting for days to be rescued. Many weren't that lucky. 

It's a huge blemish on the face of the U.S. government. They are alleged to have failed on at least two counts: building ineffective flood controls and allegedly responding to this emergency situation too slowly. There are all sorts of reasons but the end result was the same: almost 1500 lost their lives. 

Collection of decomposing bodies only started 10 days after Katrina first struck. All efforts first went to rescuing survivors. Then in the aftermath people tried to make sense of their new reality, the loss of loved ones and destruction of their property. There were loads of reports of social unrest - fights, looting, theft, drug abuse, homicide, suicide and rape. To help regain control a curfew was set and the military was brought in. All very sad, indeed. 

But after that news brief, we are happy to report that the amazing spirit of New Orleans is still alive and kicking!
Today the countless potholes and cracks in the pavement are a visible reminder. The intangible damage is much harder to see yet all the locals we met seemed to have regained their vibrancy. They just kept on keeping on. Everyone we met was friendly, and just about everyone greets you on the streets. The odd one who didn't made us wonder what's wrong with them!

The French Quarter is the place to be, especially famous Bourbon street for the tourists and Frenchman street for those in the know. The town centre is small enough to be walkable while big enough to offer a wide variety of restaurants and live music. The food was absolutely divine! Seafood gumbo was my favourite, while Mario revelled in the jambalaya, and it was Po-boys that kept us filled at lunchtime. Picture a smaller version of a Cape Town gatsby but alas, they had no masala steak ones and no Mrs Balls chutney! 

Louisiana is also known as the home of hot sauce, and you know how much we love our hot sauce! The hotter, the better! A pilgrimage to the Tabasco store was a foregone conclusion. The above-the-ground tombs were a sight to behold, a necessity given water table problems. We also ventured out of the city one day for a swamp tour. We had our first experience on a bayou and got to see alligators, raccoons and exotic birds in their natural habitat.

The highlight has to be the introduction to Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers. Yes, that's his real name! He's acclaimed as the best trumpeter in New Orleans, quite a feat as this city is regarded as the home of jazz. It was big-smiled King Lanaux who suggested it and yes, that's his real name too. Apparently that's how they roll in Nawlins! 

How did we meet him? Well, do you remember dear ol' Walter from L.A.? When he heard we were in New Orleans he kindly hooked us up with his friend, even offering to co-ordinate our meet-up from LA HQ :-D It was a memorable night bobbing along to familiar Cape Town jazz classics skillfully rendered by Kermit and his Cronies. Ah, a little taste of home! 

Thanks for a fun night, King!

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